Monday, February 18, 2013

Issue Five, Volume Five

From the Desk of the an Editor;

Hello and greetings to this issue of Larks Fiction Magazine! In this issue we explore the weird world of inanimate objects and their lives.

In big exciting news, our editors will be running the Luchador 5K Run in Tulsa, Oklahoma to benefit underprivileged children afford summer camp programs. If you are near Tulsa near the end of March come out and chat us up whilst eating our dust! Here is the website:

Besides charity we are continuing to read submissions. We should be nearing the end of the backlog so expect the new submission email address soon!


Jessica Rowse

LFM Editor

Concerning Lost Buttons

By Daniel J. Pool

On a Monday in June I hung low from a single thread; bobbing in time with wet tennis shoes. I stared at the shoes; so smug as they paced the wet earth. I felt loads shift and an arm scuffed me. I fell.

Hitting the ground, I yelled. I yelled to the coat, to the trousers, even the smug tennis shoes—but they did not or could not care. I lay on the bitter earth, alone and thread-less.

In anguish I cried out for no one; just for myself. My life was over, what is a life without a button hole and thread? What is a button alone?

“Shut up,” said a smoky of a voice from nearby.

“Who’s there?”

“You think you have it rough bud?” asked the voice, completely ignoring my question.

“Well yes, all of my life is now useless; I am without a place or stitch in this world. No one would give a darn about me now,” I lamented.

“How do you think I feel? I was loved. I was important, and then they used me, and threw me out.”

The wave of anguish the words create, forced me to turn over, to see next to me was Cigarette Butt.

Wallowing in a pool of grief he cried, “There is no point to being without being useful, and for us sir, we are no longer.”

“But then why am I left? Just to fade in the sun and bide my time till I am dust?”

His filtered silence answered me, for us there was only waiting left. Waiting to not be, and we might as well never had been. A cancer of silence grew between us. A light rain fell.

Breaching the void, a drizzle of a voice said,”Don’t listen to him, if we can wait we can live. It is not our usefulness that will save us, but our outlook on ourselves.”

Cigarette Butt rolled his eyes, “Stay out of this Condom.”


About the Author;

Daniel J. Pool is an author, blogger, and reporter from the Southern Mid-West. His work has been featured in Indigo Rising, the Fringe, and the Scarlet Sound magazines respectfully. In his spare time he is training to become a luchador warrior.

Twisted Vine
By Jessica Rowse


By Lara Kern

There Finley sat in the sink, dirty again. This was his life now- tossed carelessly in the sink with other dirty dishes in even dirtier water. Didn't these people care about the mess that they always seem to leave behind? Trash was constantly scattered through the small room, and it left behind an almost gut wrenching stench that did not seem to bother the owners of this quaint dorm room. Finley had been taught differently at the prestigious school for young cutlery that his parents had insisted upon. He had struggled for so long to learn how to behave like a young, prestigious piece of cutlery. He was even forced to clean the grit underneath his master’s nails.

Finley had never attended one of the fancy dinner parties that he was promised in school. His owner didn't even take the time to polish him- or any other piece of silver for that matter. All of that time and effort wasted. Instead of attending formal parties, Finley was deduced to the filth of greasy, cheap TV dinners. To add insult to injury his owner decided to use Finley to unclog the kitchen sink on a regular basis.

Finley refused to imagine what his parents would say if they could see him now. What a total disgrace he had turned out to be. The worst part was that Finley wasn't as disgusted as he should have been- like his parents would have been if they had seen their little boy in this place. A college dorm was his parents’ worst nightmare. He hadn't always lived like this though. His family had picked out their house and owners with a great deal of care and attention. They failed to factor into the equation however, that the young boy would eventually grow up and leave that pristine house for something quite the opposite.

The boy, Adam, as the adults called him, had been taken with Finley since he had laid eyes upon him. From the first moment that Finley had been unwrapped from his package, side-by-side with his parents, Adam’s eyes lit up. Finley found out much later on from his father that Adam’s house had no small forks before their arrivial and all of the other forks were simply much too big for Adam's tiny, pucker of a mouth. It only made sense when the grown up Adam moved out to give him the fork he had cherished in his youth. The reason for Adam’s departure from his childhood home was foreign to Finley. He saw no reason to leave but apparently life had more in store for him and Adam.

Finley was glad that Adam had not insisted on taking his family after much thought because he came to the conclusion that his family simply could not handle the young man. Sure, Finley rarely cleaned his spot in the cutlery drawer but what young fork ever does? Finley's mother had insisted that he keep his living quarters neat and tidy and he was relieved to be rid of that burden. Besides, Finley didn't leave moldy pieces of bread out for weeks like Adam. Finley knew that this was his life now and he had to make of it what he could.

When Finley first arrived at the dorm room he was perturbed. Maybe, he thought helplessly, this was a waiting room or something of the sort. A fort night passed and still Finley was stuck in this place. That was when he found out that everything he had been prepared for and had studied so diligently was being thrown out of the window. The other cutlery was unrefined and undignified. They refused to even talk to Finley and so he had found himself friendless and lonely. Finley had begun to notice changes in Adam as well. A small voice in Finley’s head tried to reason that it was merely human nature to grow up.

That voice in Finley's head started out small and turned into something bigger, a shout. The voice yelled at Finley about things that he considered minor. The voice continued on until one day it turned into a need. Finley didn’t know what to think at first so he held strong to the ideals that were instilled into his metal points. In the meantime, Adam was ever evolving into someone of his own design without the limitations created during his childhood by adults. He wore, said, and did exactly what he wanted.

Adam began seeing a girl. Finley had never cared to even consider Adam's life. Finley's number one concern was his wellbeing. It wasn't that Finley disliked Adam because that wasn't the case at all. In fact, Finley respected Adam enough to stay out of his business. It did not take Finley long to learn the girl's name, Kathy. He had overheard one of their many late night talks and began to wonder if there was someone like Kathy out there in the big, wide world for him.

Weeks passed by and Finley had begun to ache for someone to share his thoughts with.

As the weeks faded into months Kathy began to spend more time at the quaint college dorm. Then, everything changed. Adam packed up his belongings and lugged Finley just blocks away from the dorm but it felt like miles to Finley. Adam and Kathy had rented an apartment together for the summer. Finley had slipped into a comfortable, predictable life back at the dorm. Sure, his life had not been perfect but who can accept perfection from a twenty year old male? Besides, Finley had loved their late night snacking and random assortment of foods. Now everything would change. They would no longer eat peanut butter out of the jar at two o'clock in the morning.

Finley had liked Kathy. Why was she taking away his best friend? Adam, Kathy, and Finley had been at their new apartment for less than a week and Finley had already sulked up in his place in the drawer. He had even tried to maim a poor, defenseless visitor who reached into the drawer unknowingly looking for a utensil. Somehow during Finley's attack the visitor slammed the drawer closed causing some of Finley's teeth to get mangled. The man took no notice and continued making his sandwich as Finley lay huddled in his corner. He shuddered and tried to will his would-be brilliant, shiny teeth to bend back in their proper direction, but it was no use nothing he tried made any kind of difference.

Finley had stayed huddled in the corner for days. At first, Finley had been furious at Adam for abandoning him so suddenly. Then, he became angry at himself for attacking one of Adam's friends. Finally, Finley had become depressed and hurt by the fact that absolutely no one was there for him. He had huddled in a quaint, dark corner of the drawer alone and uncared for.

Finley was sure that he would not live to see another day. His teeth were cruelly twisted on top of his head as if in a bun. It was the most excruciating pain Finley had ever felt. He just knew he would be left here alone and unloved in his pathetic little corner forever.

A few days later, someone pulled the drawer out harder than expected and Finley, along with the other cutlery, all shimmied to the front of the drawer. Adam began to paw through the drawer looking for something to stir his morning coffee with. It was a relief to Finley when Adam found him. Adam gently lifted Finley out of the drawer and inspected his cruelly twisted teeth. He ran a finger down the deformities and even inspected it further in the light. Finally, Adam carefully bent each tooth back to its original shape.

After Finley had been saved he took a new lease on life. He began to open up more to the other kitchen utensils. The Spatula, Conrad, helped Finley with the transition and they soon became good friends. Conrad had been brought to the small apartment because Adam had nothing to properly flip pancakes with. Kathy was Conrad’s owner; he loved to share stories about when she was only a little girl. Then, very gradually the number of kitchen utensils began to expand. Finley remembered a time when Adam had only two of the basics: two bowls, two plates, two cups, two forks, two knives, and two spoons. Now, combined with Kathy’s things, Finley found it difficult to comfortably lie in his favorite drawer. At night, he was packed into the small drawer with all of the other cutlery, sardine style, and it was hard to breathe.

Finley had become more content with his life than ever before. He rarely got upset due to the lack of use or polishing because his anger never solved the problem. Friends like Conrad had helped him regain a sense of direction in his life. The only thing he longed for was someone to share his hopes and dreams with. He wanted someone who would be there for the good times and the bad.

A few days after his realization, Kathy brought in a cardboard box. When their eyes met over the soapy dish suds it was a serendipitous moment. No words could properly describe the volume of feeling that was tugging a Finley’s heart strings. The oval shape of her head made Finley’s heart swoon. She was absolutely the most beautiful piece of cutlery Finley had ever seen in his life.

Finley awkwardly shuffled in one spot and lowered his eyes to the floor. He nudged Conrad, “Who’s that?”

Conrad laughed cordially, “That, my good fellow, is Petunia.”

Petunia, “Finley let the name roll from his tongue in a hazy daydream voice.

Conrad leaned closer to Finley as if they were discussing a conspiracy on a larger scale, “Petunia was the prettiest thing you have ever seen back in her youthful days. She has become weathered and unused as of late and is frightfully upset about the whole matter. You see, Petuina was Kathy’s favorite spoon. She never ate cereal, soup, or porridge without her and then one day everything turned south. Kathy barely even polishes Petunia anymore.” Conrad clucked his tongue in a disapproving manner.

Finley forced his gaze from Petunia back to Conrad, “But why?” How could someone not see Petunia’s beauty? It was obvious to Finley and he had not even been properly introduced to her yet.

Over the next few days Finley tried his best to get to know Petunia but his efforts were dashed on the rocks. Finley discovered that Petunia was quiet and shy. He never saw her talking with anyone and she barely explored outside of the drawer Kathy had placed her in. She did occasionally take short walks around the kitchen counter but she never wandered far. Finley would watch all of the other utensils trying to talk to her and he was relieved to see she never favored one.

Not too long after Petunia's arrival, Finley got his chance to talk to her. A bunch of other utensils had arrived after Petunia and some of them were not as sweet as she was. One was Billy. Conrad had warned Finley against any type of interaction with Billy. Apparently, Billy was a troubled young man who was recklessly dangerous. He had gotten into so many fights that Kathy's parents had given him to Kathy as a moving present. Billy proceeded to pick on and torture all of Kathy's cutlery and even the kitchen appliances.

Finley was unsure why but Billy made him feel uneasy. Conrad had informed Finley that at one time Billy and Petunia had been a couple. Petunia had ended the relationship when Billy became violent. Finley was displeased to see Billy lurking around Petunia’s drawer in an obvious attempt to get her back. He did that every night and every night Finley lost sleep worrying about Petunia.

Finley had succeeded in keeping his distance until he heard muffled voices. One sounded like Petunia’s melodious voice. Finley had thought nothing of it until he heard a scream and metal hit metal. When he made his way to the noises Finley saw Billy standing over a sobbing Petunia.

You stupid little…” Billy raised his blade to strike Petunia again.

What is going on here?”Finley's voice was tense and full of anger.

Nothing that concerns you,” Billy's dark eyes narrowed at Finley.

Petunia began to sob, “Please Billy stop. Leave him alone.”

SHUT UP! Just shut up Petunia. If you won’t like me then no one will like you after I’m done. Do you get what I’m saying?” Billy’s voice was irate.

Petunia continued to sob but said nothing else.

Billy turned his back to Petunia and rounded on Finley, “What are you still doing here? I thought I told you to scram!”

I don't think so,” Finley had never been in a fight and was scared out of his mind, but he refused to let Billy see his fear.

Finley jumped out in front of Billy and ended up tripping the big, bad bully with his slightly larger feet by accident. Finley watched horrified as Billy took a terrifyingly long fall and landed with a loud clank on the kitchen floor. Billy swore and spat, his blade was bent and his temper was running high but there was nothing he could do to repair his damaged ego or his bent blade.

Finley’s stomach sank. He had never meant to hurt Billy. He had only wanted to protect Petunia. Petunia still was lying on the counter. Finley knelt down and gently patted her head, “Are you okay?”

Petunia stirred a little from her dazed state, “I believe so. Is Billy gone?” Her eyes gleamed with fright.

You’re safe.”

Finley saw relief wash over Petunia as their eyes met.

Thank you,” she replied.

Finley and Petunia finally got the chance to talk about their past, present, and futures. Petunia had experiences like no one Finley had ever met. While Finley had found himself in etiquette training Petunia was out exploring the world with Kathy. He found that he could sit for hours and listen to her beautiful voice. Finley had finally found the one that made him whole and he had never been happier. Finley knew this wasn’t an ending but the beginning to something more.

About the Author;

Lara Kern was born and still resides in Gainesville, Georgia with her husband, two dogs, and cat. She has been writing on for over a year and has currently started a blog entitled Confessions of a Rambling Girl.

Thank you for joining us once again! Come back next week for more great fiction! Or see our back issues for more indie lit.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Issue Four, Volume Five

From the Desk of the Editor;
Welcome to another exciting issue of Larks Fiction Magazine. In this issue we are ecstatic to bring you a another poem from Charles Bernard as well as a new work from up and coming author Jeff Hill.
In news we participated at an indie arts event in conjunction with the Maysville History Club at Coffee-Ville in Lindsay, Oklahoma. The history club performed a theatrical version of the life of Vernon Patterson, local folk character and school teacher. We are happy to say nearly seventy people turned out to see the performance!
We must apologize for being so behind on online editions. We are striving to get caught up. Stay tuned for e-magazines!
Thank you for reading!
Daniel J. Pool
LFM Editor

This February Born
By Charles Bernard

This February born
She drives me insane
She takes me on a journey
She makes me float
She brings me inspiration
She guides my imagination
She makes my aspiration
She is like a prescription
She completes my description
She causes me sensation
She brings me to submission
She tunes me to her station
She always gets my attention
She weakens my frustration
Oh February born, don't drive me to extinction...

About the Poet;
For more about Charles follow him @chalzz619 and see his blog at

There Be Dragons
By Jessica Rowse

Stone Mask Girl
By Jeff Hill

A haunted house in the middle of a small college town is the setting for a brutal death on a hot summer night. The kids around the neighborhood all say that the house is haunted before this night, but it’s really just old and full of secrets. There is a woman who lives there, but no one even knows she’s there.
They see her every once in a while; in the windows, in the back yard, but never during the daytime. They say she’s dead, but no one ever bothers to ask her. Other than vandals or kids on a dare, she never has any visitors. For all the town knows, she is a ghost.
But she’s not.
The old woman is not that old. She is only twenty-six. She is in a constant state of mourning. Her husband left her. Her son left her. Her parents are long dead, and so are all of her friends. The life she led in her past days was that of danger, deceit, and drama. But she would take it all back just to be considered among the living again. Her biggest mistake was not leaving the life of crime behind her. No, the old woman who is really not that old made a far worse mistake. She tried to change. She tried motherhood. But, as luck would have it, she gave birth to something evil.
Living a life of betrayal and wickedness never helped anyone, but she thought that by bringing a pure child into her environment, she would be forgiven for her past mistakes. But she was wrong. And after three stillborn babies, a record among the townspeople, she did not, as her husband said, “get the hint.” But that didn’t stop her. She kept trying.
Then, one day, she succeeded. The child was born; a little girl whose beauty was only paralleled by the glimmer of hope in her eyes. And that was what she was called, from day one. Hope.
But the child was born different, and in this world, different never means something good. She was an outcast, born with a rare skin disease, allergic to the sun. Constantly shrouded in darkness, Hope and her mother were shunned by the father and his perfect son. When the father left Hope’s mother, she stopped speaking and she stopped going out into public.
The girl also stopped speaking, but for a different reason. A few years later, people would say that it was because she wanted to mimic her mother. Some would say that she chose not to, for a deed that happened in her name; one so heinous, so evil in nature that she simply did not deserve to speak again. But her doctors would have a more logical explanation. She simply couldn’t.
But I am getting ahead of myself. I promised a ghoulish tale, and no ghost story is complete without a ghost.
After two years of being regarded as a supernatural being, Hope’s mother got sick and tired of being a ghost. She did not leave a letter. She did not leave a message. The only thing she left, when she raised the gun to her temple, was her daughter.
Time went on. And Hope survived.
At least, that’s how they tell it…
Tim’s Aunt Mindy died last week, and I’m only a little ashamed to admit that my curiosity outweighs my remorse. The doctors said that it was just her time, a plain and simple heart attack. But I can’t help but wonder if the little girl she adopted had something to do with it. I know it’s horrible to think such things about family, but, in my defense, I didn’t even know them. I never actually met her and it had been at least ten years since Tim had even spoken with his aunt. Not since she adopted the stone mask girl.
Her name was Hope, and the first few years of her life were full of tragedy and horror. She was born with a rare genetic disorder, a form of photodermatosis that rendered her completely incapable of going into the sunlight. Abandoned and left for dead by her birth parents as a baby, she was found in the woods behind her birthplace and went through several Catholic orphanages until finally finding a home with a young couple on the eve of her sixth birthday. The man and his wife were wealthy and prominent citizens, but could not conceive a child of their own. It seemed that poor little Hope was going to finally find a happy ending.
But tragedy struck again, and a car accident claimed the lives of the man and woman who had promised the small child love and affection. Hope survived the wreck, but was not found until roughly four hours later, a victim of the sun’s harmful rays. Before she could be put back into the Catholic orphanage, her disease had demanded an urgent visit to the emergency room. That is where Hope and Tim’s Aunt Mindy first met, in the intensive care unit. Mindy was in fact a nurse at that hospital, a childless widow herself, and felt a strange connection to the child, bringing her home with her after months of operations.
The papers were properly filed and within a few short weeks, Mindy and Hope were a family. Mindy put in for early retirement and devoted the last ten years of her life to the little girl who wore a stone mask to protect and hide her face from a cruel and unforgiving world. They seemed to be a happy little family, but little things make me wonder. It’s the little things that have kept me up at night, like the fact that the girl doesn’t talk. She is at least sixteen by now, but she has never spoken a word. Or the fact that she lives in the basement den, modeled after a dollhouse.
Tim dismisses my suspicions as cruel and unwarranted. But even he can’t ignore the padlock on the outside of the stone mask girl’s door. Or the fact that Mindy’s reclusive nature over the past ten years was unbelievably uncharacteristic of a woman of her caliber. Even though this frail girl had never spoken a word, and had never hurt a fly, I couldn’t help but wonder what her power over Mindy was and where it came from.
Regardless of what I wonder all day long, the simple fact still remains. I don’t have a job. Tim does. Someone needs to watch her. Easier said than done. Why am I so afraid of this little girl? Why do I see only blackness when I stare past her stone mask and into her eyes? Why do I think that the first day living in Mindy’s house is going to be the longest of my life?
Oh my God! I saw them move!
Tim doesn’t ever believe me. He always says that I have an overactive imagination, just like that of a child. But I say that he just has an under-active imagination, like that of an idiot. Always saying that I have a “flair for the dramatic,” he dismisses almost everything that I ever tell him. He doesn’t even believe my stories of funny things that happen at the store or the library.
I swear to God that I just saw them move again! The freaking walls are alive or something! I hate this house. I look at the clock on the wall, the one that is about five feet farther away from where it was less than ten seconds ago. It’s only nine o’clock. Tim’s not going to be home from work until after at least six. Damn him and his painfully predictable, stereotypical, and inconvenient job.
“You just need to stay on your meds,” he’d tell me. But that’s just his under-active imagination talking again. He doesn’t want to understand me. I’m a writer. I can’t just look at something and ignore it like he does. Things like this don’t only happen to me, I’m just the only one who sees them.
I can’t believe we’re living in a freaking haunted house. With a mute deformed retarded girl living in our dungeon. This is like something straight out of a Gothic horror novel. No one would believe this, the more I think about it. Even I am having trouble grasping what’s going on this morning.
Earlier today, when Tim left for work, I went up to the attic and did a little bit of looking around. I found some old picture albums, most of little or no importance. But one in particular stood out. It was a photo album of, get this, dead people. They were all posed in their finest clothes, after being dead, and underneath each one was a handwritten date of birth, name, and date of death.
As I turned the pages, I heard a loud thump below me, probably the stone mask girl. Tim said that I should make her some soup or something around noon because that’s what she eats and that’s when she wakes up. Why was she up so early, I wondered? Would I be breaking her routine if I fed her this early? Oh, well, I thought.
So I went downstairs again, walking into the kitchen and starting to wonder what I should make her for breakfast. I thought about things that a girl her age would eat, but then I thought about her condition. Tim said that he heard that the cancerous legions she got from the sunlight had spread to her mouth, which could have explained why she ate only soup. It could also explain the reasoning behind her speechlessness. Either that, or she just chose not to speak.
That’s when I saw the walls move. Literally. The entire kitchen shook and I thought it was an earthquake or something, but then I realized that this was Nebraska. There pretty much was no such thing as an earthquake here in the Midwest. The only ting we ever had were twisters, and those were few and far between. So I know what I saw, and the walls definitely moved.
I hear scratching on the door to the basement and I can’t begin to tell you how much that creeps me out. I can’t even bring myself to say anything to the girl. I can’t even ask her what she wants, or if she’s hungry, or if she’s got a weapon held high as she waits for me to open the door and let her kill me.
What a thing to think, huh? This is crazy, but then again, that’s exactly what Tim would say. Mister no imagination would not think twice about going into a room alone with a girl like that. He says that my fear is mean. Plain and simple. But I think that he’s just too naive to see what I see. Like that time we went to New York.
We were walking down the street, pretty late at night, after I had met with my editor and gotten turned down for publication for my fifth or sixth time that year, and I wanted to go back to our hotel room. I wanted to sleep, but Tim wanted to sight-see. Long story short, we were mugged after we went into an alley that I had been saying all night did not look safe. He actually thinks there is no evil in the world. But then again, he doesn’t really think there is good, either. Just lots and lots of shades of gray.
Like I said, an idiot.
But I love him. I really do. He’s the best thing that has ever happened to me in my whole boring and unsatisfying, adventure-free life in Nebraska. He says we met because we went to school in the same college, but I tell people that we met because he saved me from failing out of school by sitting by me in art history. Again, who’s story is better? Exactly.
Dammit! There it is again! The freaking pictures are all falling down as I walk away from the door that the stone mask girl is hiding behind, the one that she is plotting behind. Maybe she’s doing this, I start to wonder. Maybe she’s somehow controlling events from down there, like an elaborate stage or something. That stone mask hides a theatrical genius, a puppet master of the creepiest kind. I’ll bet that’s it. She’s just really bored, really warped, and really, really creepy.
After the ninth or tenth wall move, I decide that she will have to wait until lunch, as planned, for her antics. She’s just messing with me, trying to make me go crazy. But the jokes on her. Tim and all of my doctors already think I’m crazy. I have enough meds to make a living selling them to junior high kids after school, it’s actually kind of ridiculous if you think about it.
Going back up the stairs, I see a new closet that I haven’t looked in yet, and decide to take a gander through more of Mindy’s things. As I open the door, what I see scares the crap out of me. I swear to God, it’s a freaking noose. The closet is entirely empty, save for the noose and a single wooden chair.
Screw. This.
As I slam the door shut, I turn just in time to see someone walk right into the bedroom that Tim and I have commandeered.
“Tim!” I scream. “Thank God you’re back!”
Then I look at my watch. It’s only nine thirty. That’s not Tim that just walked past me. The walls are moving again, I can hear them down the hall. The noose is smacking against the closet door, I can feel my skin crawling as it does so. And the stone mask girl is scratching at the door again. What does she want from me?
I pick up the phone and dial Tim’s office.
“Tim!” I yell into the phone.
“Sorry, Gwenny, he’s not in right now.”
Crap. It’s his secretary.
“He’s got a business meeting with the board of directors until about noon-thirty. You want me to have him call you when he gets back to the office?”
“No, I…”
“Gwenny,” she sighs, “You sound stressed. You okay?”
“Yeah,” I say. “It’s just… Tell him I called.”
“Will do. Have a good one.”
“You, too.”
Maybe I am imagining all of this. Maybe I should just take some pills and go to bed for a few more hours. Yeah. I think that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll just go to the kitchen, fix myself a glass of water, take a few pills, and go to bed. I’ll just go sleep this paranoia off and wake up when…
What was that?
I just heard a loud crash in the basement. Oh my god. What horrible things have I been thinking all morning? That poor helpless little girl probably just hurt herself and can’t cry out for help. Before I even know it, I’m at the padlock door, opening it with the one of the hundreds of keys that Aunt Mindy left in her will. She has a key for every single room in the house, including storage closets and the doors that lead to doors, that lead to white blank walls where rooms should be.
I’m inside the basement, walking down the stairs, and the dimly lit room is not reassuring that something good happened down here. I feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up. I hear nothing. The walls aren’t moving anymore, the scratching stopped when she probably fell down the stairs or wherever she fell. I think I imagined the noose, but I’ll have to look later. I don’t hear a thing.
Not a sound.
I’m frantically looking around the stone mask girl’s room, not quite sure what to expect. I’ve only seen her once, and that was just for a brief time. And there were policemen, doctors, and of course, Tim was at my side the whole time. I’ve never seen her face to face, well, you know what I mean. Not with just me and her in the room, and certainly not in this room.
This room.
What a trip. I swear, it couldn’t be creepier if it tried. It’s almost as if it has a life of its own. Mindy always thought of Hope as a sort of innocent little girl, one who never grew old and never matured. It was very evident she treated her like a child from the first time I laid eyes on the photographs of this place. It’s like a doll’s house. Lots of pink. Lots of antique furniture. Lots of places to hide.
“Hope?” I ask. “You down here?”
Of course she’s down here. Where would she possibly have gone? Unless it’s somehow her messing with the house when I’m not looking. Maybe she lives in the walls like the villains of those old Lifetime Original Movies I used to watch with my mom when I was a teenager. Yeah. Right.
I start to move forward, away from the staircase, and notice that this basement is a lot larger than I had imagined, and only the front room is actually done up like a dollhouse. The rest of it is, well, a stereotypical, scary, dirty cellar-type basement. Hope’s room is not the dollhouse. That’s just what Mindy showed everyone. No, she lives somewhere else. Somewhere far worse.
She lives in a dimly lit closet-sized room at the end of the hallway, with only one lamp and a bed that looks as if the sheets haven’t been changed in over a decade. There are rats and roaches everywhere, and I almost start to understand why the girl killed her foster mother.
No! I can’t think such things! This is a poor and innocent little girl, who didn’t do a damn thing to deserve the life she’s been given. I should be ashamed of myself… by I’m not. I’m too scared to be mad at myself. I can barely even open my mouth to form another word, let alone ask the girl if she’s alright.
Then I see her.
She’s sitting in a chair, next to her bed. She’s got something in her hands and is dressed in a doll’s outfit, one that looks not only uncomfortable, but outdated on top of that. I can’t take my eyes off her mask. It’s so damn creepy. All I can see is the white stone, expressionless, faceless, soulless. And those eyes. What am I talking about? There are no eyes! Only blackness. She has no freaking eyes!
Compose yourself.
I take a few deep breaths and try again.
“Hope, honey. Do you want something to eat? Is that you that’s been making all of those noises?”
She suddenly stops rocking in her chair, lifts her head up, and looks directly at me. She holds up her doll to the light, and I see all that I am willing to see for today. The doll has no face. It’s been crushed in.
“Never mind,” I say, “I’ll come back later.”
I’m lying, and as I turn to walk back towards the stairs, she gets up. Oh my God. She knows I’m not coming back down. She knows that I’m going to wait for Tim to get off work and then send him down and then leave her forever. I’m never going to be her mother, I’m never going to love her. And she knows it.
She starts walking toward me, and I turn my brisk walking pace into a full-on sprint to the stairs. As I climb each step, I imagine how she’s going to murder me. You know, stab me a million times, then stuff me and put me in one of her dresses that Mindy made her. I’m going to be stuck down here forever with the stone mask girl and she will play with me, just like one of her screwed up creepy little dolls with no face.
My legs are heavy, my heart is beating faster and faster. Each step is getting harder and harder to climb, and before I know it, I’m being grabbed on the ankle by the stone mask girl. I fall up the stairs, landing square on my face.
And then I black out.
When I come to, I’m lying on several steps, and my head hurts like crazy. There’s a bit of blood on my forehead, but I’ll live. That is, if I get out of this dollhouse in time. I look around the room frantically, and expect to see her lunge at me with a pair of scissors or a knitting needle or something that she means to kill me with, but I’m wrong. She’s just sitting there, on the bottom step. Not moving, just stroking her doll and looking back at the dollhouse room.
Then I cough, and she turns. I swear her head pulls a Linda Blair on me, but that can’t be possible. I’m just so scared that I’m starting to imagine things again. My overactive imagination is going to be my downfall, according to Tim. But I think, in this case, it’s going to save my life. I bolt up the stairs.
Slamming the door behind me, I go to put the key in the door, seeing the white stone mask brush past it and the eye of the stone mask girl look directly at me. Her eyes aren’t black at all, but that doesn’t register until I put the padlock on and hear what sounds to me like crying.
Then the doorbell rings. It’s Tim, back home. He always rings the doorbell when he’s carrying in groceries.
He’ll be coming into the house any minute now. That means I only have a few seconds to do this. I have to go back into the basement. He’s coming, I can hear him cussing up a storm outside, but that doesn’t make what I have to do any less scary, believe me.
I’m unlocking the padlock as I hear the front door open, Tim’s footsteps coming toward me. I shut the door. His voice calls out my name, but I am silent. Just like Hope.
And there she is. Waiting for me.
“I’m not scared of you,” I tell her.
Her stone mask glowing in the darkness, she doesn’t say a word. She doesn’t move a muscle. She just sits there, watching me. I swear to God she’s just waiting for my next move, waiting to lunge out and kill me, just like her father has been doing for years.
“You killed her, didn’t you?” I ask her. “Mindy, I mean.”
No response.
“It doesn’t surprise me. I mean, just look at you.” Come on. Move. Do something! “You’re a freak. You’re not even human.”
No response.
I hear Tim calling me from above, looking through room after room in this haunted mansion. His under-active imagination keeps him safe, but my overactive imagination keeps me focused. I know what’s going on now, and I know what I have to do.
There are sewing utensils on the table next to Hope. She looks at me as I look at them. Then she moves her head toward them. Even though she is closer, I think I could get them before she does. But I have to act quick.
I jump forward, grabbing one of them, but what happens next surprises me. She doesn’t even move. She just looks at me. I’m frozen with fear, looking face to face with the stone mask girl. She lifts her hands to her mask, removing it and her hair covers her face. I drop the scissors to the floor.
As she gets up out of her chair, dropping her doll onto the floor in front of her, I inch backwards, back to the stairs. I know now that I wasn’t wrong. I know now that she is exactly what I thought she was the first time I laid eyes on her.
I’m crying, begging, when she begins to raise her arm. Just when I think she’s going to strike me down, I notice that she has stopped moving. Her hair parts, and I see her face.
Before I can register what has just happened, before I can understand what is really going on, I hear that damn rope swing again. Upstairs. Tim is silent. I can’t hear him. All I hear is the noose, swinging, and it sounds different. Heavier. But I don’t want to hurt this poor girl anymore. She’s been hurt enough. I take the scissors to my throat.
And after all was said and done, Hope survived.
About the Author;
Jeff Hill is a writer who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A proud alumnus of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and regular participant of the National Novel Writing Month, Script Frenzy, and the Clarion West Write-a-Thon, he is also a past participant in the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference and the Sarah Lawrence College Summer Seminar for Writers in New York. His fiction has appeared in Weirdyear, Cuento Magazine, Weekly Artist, Writing Raw, Microhorror, Fiction 365, Flashes in the Dark, Postcard Shorts, Static Movement, Eunoia Review, and The Cynic Online Magazine and is forthcoming in Apocrypha and Abstractions.

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